Cyclone Kompasu strikes Philippines, kills 9

MANILA (Reuters) – Nine people have been killed in the Philippines and 11 were missing on Tuesday due to floods and landslides caused by heavy rain from tropical cyclone Kompasu, the national disaster agency said.

Kompasu, with maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, had absorbed remnants of an earlier cyclone before making landfall in the Philippines on Monday evening. Nearly 1,600 people were evacuated.

The disaster agency said it was verifying information from its regional units that reported four people killed in landslides in northern Benguet province and five killed in flash floods in Palawan, an island province in the country’s southwest.

Authorities were conducting search and rescue operations for 11 people missing mostly after landslides.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands is hit by about 20 storms or typhoons annually, bringing heavy rains that trigger deadly landslides.

President Rodrigo Duterte was monitoring the government’s disaster response, his spokesperson, Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

Rescue personnel were at the scene, while power and water restoration and road clearing was ongoing, he added.

Kompasu, the 13th tropical storm to enter the Philippines, is expected to leave its territory on Tuesday, the state weather agency said.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

Storm Grace pounds Mexico’s Caribbean coast with heavy rain

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Hurricane Grace weakened into a tropical storm after passing the Mexican beach resort of Tulum on Thursday, but was expected to regain strength again and cause flooding as it churns across the country’s southeast.

The storm made landfall on the Yucatan peninsula early Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane. Social media images showed downed street signs and palm trees flailing in the wind near Tulum and authorities reported some floods, power outages and toppled trees.

Grace was now heading west and was expected to hit the coast of Veracruz state as a hurricane late on Friday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. There were warnings of hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surge.

The NHC said Grace would dump 4-8 inches (10-20 cm) of rain over the Yucatan peninsula through Friday, and up to 12 inches in some areas. The heavy rainfall would likely cause areas of flash and urban flooding, it added.

Mexican officials said preparations had been made for the hurricane’s arrival, with dozens of military and rescue workers as well as staff from the national power utility, the Comision Federal Electricidad, gearing up to help.

“We’re ready,” Laura Velazquez, head of Mexico’s civil protection authority, told a regular news conference standing alongside President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Velazquez said the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, Yucatan and Tabasco were likely to receive heavy rainfall.

Grace unleashed downpours and flooding over Haiti and Jamaica earlier this week. By Thursday morning it was about 85 miles west of Tulum, with top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) the NHC said. The storm was moving west at 18 mph (29 kph).

(Reporting by Dave Graham, Daina Beth Solomon and Diego OreEditing by Mark Porter and Frances Kerry)

Death toll from floods in China’s Henan province rises to 302

BEIJING (Reuters) -The death toll from last month’s floods in the central Chinese province of Henan rose to 302 as of Monday, officials said, triple the figure of 99 that was reported last week, with most of the fatalities reported in the provincial capital Zhengzhou.

In Zhengzhou, a city of 12 million that lies along the Yellow River, the death toll was 292, including 14 who perished when a subway line was flooded. In total, 39 people died in underground areas in Zhengzhou including garages and tunnels.

Over three days last month, 617.1 mm (24.3 inches) of rain fell in Zhengzhou, nearly equivalent to its annual average of 640.8 mm, causing widespread damage and disruption in a city that is a major transport and industrial hub.

Of the 50 people still missing in Henan province, 47 were from Zhengzhou, local officials told a briefing on Monday.

Direct economic losses in Henan reached 114.27 billion yuan ($18 billion), with more than 580,000 hectares of farmland affected.

China’s State Council said it will set up a team to investigate the disaster in Zhengzhou and will hold officials accountable if found to have derelicted their duty, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

($1 = 6.4592 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Tony MunroeEditing by Mark Heinrich and David Holmes)

Southern Europe battles wildfires as north cleans up after floods

ATHENS (Reuters) – Wildfires burned in regions across southern Europe on Monday, fueled by hot weather and strong winds, as some northern countries cleaned up after a weekend of torrential rain and flooding.

In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said firefighters had battled around 50 fires during the past 24 hours and it was likely there would be more with meteorologists warning that a further heatwave was in prospect.

“I want to emphasize that August remains a difficult month,” he said. “That is why it is important for all of us, all state services, to be on absolute alert until the firefighting period is formally over.”

Fire service officials said negligence on farms and construction sites had been behind several incidents, many of which were in the southern Peloponnese region. No casualties were reported.

Conditions in southern Europe were in sharp contrast to the torrential rainstorms that lashed northern countries from Austria to Britain following the catastrophic flooding in Germany and neighboring countries last week.

On the Italian island of Sardinia, firefighting planes from France and Greece reinforced local aircraft battling blazes across the island where more than 4,000 hectares of forest were burnt and more than 350 people evacuated.

In Sicily, fires broke out near the western town of Erice.

In Spain, the northeastern region of Catalonia saw more than 1,500 hectares destroyed near Santa Coloma de Queralt, forcing dozens to be evacuated, although the blazes were 90% stabilized on Monday, firefighters and authorities said.

In Lietor, in the central east region of Castilla-La Mancha, more than 2,500 hectares burned during the weekend before being brought under control, authorities said.

So far this year, wildfires have burned across 35,000 hectares in Spain, still some way off the 138,000 hectares burned in 2012, the worst year of the past decade.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo Gonzalez in Madrid, Lefteris Papadimas and Angeliki Koutantou in Athens and Emily Roe in Rome; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

At least 112 dead in India as rains trigger floods, landslides

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI (Reuters) -At least 112 people have died in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said on Friday, after torrential monsoon rains caused landslides and flooded low-lying areas, cutting off hundreds of villages.

Parts of India’s west coast received up to 594 mm (23 inches) of rainfall over 24 hours, forcing authorities to evacuate people from vulnerable areas as they released water from dams that were threatening to overflow.

“Unexpected very heavy rainfall triggered landslides in many places and flooded rivers,” Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who heads Maharashtra’s state government, told journalists.

“Dams and rivers are overflowing. We are forced to release water from dams, and, accordingly, we are moving people residing near the river banks to safer places.”

The navy and army were helping with rescue operations in coastal areas, he added.

At least 38 people were killed in Taliye, 180 km (about 110 miles) southeast of the financial capital Mumbai, when a landslide flattened most of the small village, state government officials said.

In nine other landslides in other parts of Maharashtra 59 people died and another 15 were killed in accidents linked to the heavy rainfall, they said.

A few dozen people were also feared to have been trapped in landslides in Satara and Raigad districts, said a state government official who asked not to be named.

“Rescue operations are going on at various places in Satara, Raigad and Ratnagiri. Due to heavy rainfall and flooded rivers, we are struggling to move rescue machinery quickly,” he said.

Thousands of trucks were stuck on a national highway linking Mumbai with the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, with the road submerged in some places, another Maharashtra government official said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of villages and towns were without electricity and drinking water, he said.

Rivers were also overflowing in the neighboring southern states of Karnataka and Telangana where authorities were monitoring the situation, government officials there said.

Seasonal monsoon rains from June to September cause deaths and mass displacement across South Asia every year, but they also deliver more than 70% of India’s rainfall and are crucial for farmers.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Joe Bavier and Giles Elgood)

Freak Brazil frost hits heart of coffee belt, damaging crops

By Nayara Figueiredo and Marcelo Teixeira

SAO PAULO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – An unusual cold snap, with temperatures dropping to freezing levels in a matter of minutes, delivered a blow to the heart of Brazil’s coffee belt, damaging trees and harming prospects for next year’s crop, farmers said on Wednesday.

Agricultural products across the western hemisphere have been beset by unusually bad weather – be it floods or extreme drought – all season. Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer, as its climate is most conducive for production of the beans. Coffee prices surged nearly 14% in response to the frosts, nearing four-and-a-half year highs.

The sudden frost happened in the morning of July 20. Farmers, brokers and analysts were assessing their crops on Wednesday after reports that the cold snap was much stronger than expected.

“I’ve never seen something like that. We knew it would be cold, we were monitoring, but temperatures suddenly went several degrees down when it was already early morning,” said Mario Alvarenga, a coffee producer with two farms in the southern part of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s largest producing state.

Farmers shared pictures of their crops, where large black areas were visible in places where they should see dark green spots marking coffee trees.

“I will probably have to take out some 80,000 trees, they are burned all the way to the bottom,” said Airton Gonçalves, who farms 100 hectares of coffee in Patrocinio, in the Cerrado region of Minas Gerais.

“I was going to the farm yesterday and a sensor in the truck started to alert me about ice in the road. I thought the system had gone crazy. But when I got to the farm, it was covered in ice, the roofs, the crops.”

According to reports, the frost hit areas all the way from the south to the central parts of Minas Gerais.

Joel de Souza Borges, a coffee broker in Patrocinio, believes that around 50% of farms in the Cerrado region were hit. He said this year’s production will not be harmed, since most areas were already harvested, but production in 2022 is a question mark.

“In some cases the trees recover, you need to cut down some of the branches. In other cases, you have to take the tree out and replant,” he said.

Farmer Gonçalves estimates his production in 2022 will fall from 5,500 bags to around 1,500 bags.

(Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; editing by David Evans)

Germany counts cost of floods as hopes of finding survivors fade

By Kirsti Knolle and Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) – A relief official dampened hopes on Wednesday of finding more survivors in the rubble of villages devastated by floods in western Germany, as a poll showed many Germans felt policymakers had not done enough to protect them.

More than 170 people died in last week’s flooding, Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century, and thousands went missing.

“We are still looking for missing persons as we clear roads and pump water out of basements,” Sabine Lackner, deputy chief of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Any victims found now are likely to be dead, she said.

One woman in Insul, in the rural Eifel region, said people had emerged from their houses like ghosts last week to see whether their neighbors were alive. In the Ahrweiler district, of which Insul is part, 123 people died.

For immediate relief, the federal government will initially provide up to 200 million euros ($235.5 million) in emergency aid, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said more funds can be made available if needed.

That will come on top of at least 250 million euros provided by the affected states to repair buildings and damaged local infrastructure and to help people in crisis situations.

Scholz said the government would contribute to the cost of rebuilding infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The full extent of the damage is not clear, but Scholz said that rebuilding after previous floods cost about 6 billion euros.

PUBLIC CRITICISM

The floods have dominated the political agenda before a national election in September and raised uncomfortable questions about why Europe’s richest economy was caught flat-footed.

Two-thirds of Germans believe that federal and regional policymakers should have done more to protect communities from flooding, a survey by the INSA institute for German mass-circulation paper Bild showed on Wednesday.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer, who faced calls from opposition politicians to resign over the high death toll, said there would be no shortage of money for reconstruction.

“That is why people pay taxes, so that they can receive help in situations like this. Not everything can be insured,” he told a news conference.

Insured losses from the floods may total 4 billion to 5 billion euros ($4.7-5.9 billion), said the GDV insurance industry association. Damage in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate is likely to exceed the 4.65 billion euros recorded after a deluge in August 2002, it said.

The estimate does not include losses from the southern German state of Bavaria and in Saxony in the east last weekend.

Only around 45% of homeowners in Germany have insurance that covers flood damage, according to the GDV, triggering a discussion about the need for compulsory insurance.

“As the time interval between heavy natural disasters gets shorter and shorter, one needs a debate about a protection scheme and how it could be designed,” Seehofer said.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio aid would include funds to help businesses such as restaurants or hair salons make up for lost revenue.

($1 = 0.8490 euros)

(Writing by Maria Sheahan, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Thousands of Dutch urged to leave their homes as rivers flood

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Thousands of people in the south of the Netherlands on Thursday were urged to leave their houses quickly to escape floods as rivers were on the brink of bursting their banks.

Several towns and villages along the Meuse river in the province of Limburg strongly advised people to seek refuge until at least Friday afternoon, as there was a large chance that their home would be flooded in the coming hours.

Water levels on the Meuse and the Rur reached record levels on Thursday, surpassing the levels that led to large floods in 1993 and 1995, local authorities said.

In Valkenburg, in the far south of Limburg, close to the Belgian and German border, floods had already engulfed the town center, forcing the evacuation of several nursing homes and destroying at least one bridge.

Drone footage showed brown water coursing over car parks and parkland. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima visited Valkenburg on Thursday evening to show their support.

Scores of houses have been flooded in the province, where hundreds of soldiers have been sent to help fight the rising waters.

But with no casualties reported, the situation so far is much less severe than in neighboring Germany where dozens of people have died and others were missing on Thursday as rivers burst their banks and swept away homes.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Alison Williams)

Dozens die in floods in western Europe, others missing

By Wolfgang Rattay and Riham Alkousaa

SCHULD, Germany (Reuters) – At least 33 people have died in Germany and dozens were missing on Thursday as record rainfall in western Europe caused rivers to burst their banks, swept away homes and flooded cellars.

Eighteen people died and dozens were missing around the wine-growing hub of Ahrweiler, in Rhineland-Palatinate state, police said, after the Ahr river that flows into the Rhine rose and brought down half a dozen houses.

Eight people died in the Euskirchen region south of the city of Bonn, authorities said. In Belgium, two men died due to torrential rain and a 15-year-old girl was missing after being swept away by a swollen river.

Hundreds of soldiers were helping police with the rescue efforts, using tanks to clear roads of landslides and fallen trees, while helicopters winched those stranded on rooftops to safety.

The floods have caused Germany’s worst mass loss of life in years. Flooding in 2002 killed 21 people in eastern Germany and over 100 across the wider central European region.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her dismay.

“I am shocked by the catastrophe that so many people in the flood areas have to endure. My sympathy goes out to the families of the dead and missing.”

Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor at a general election in September and the premier of the hard-hit state of North Rhine Westphalia, rushed to the flooded area and blamed the extreme weather on global warming during a visit to the area.

“We will be faced with such events over and over, and that means we need to speed up climate protection measures, on European, federal and global levels, because climate change isn’t confined to one state,” he said.

Climate and environmental issues are one of the main battlegrounds in the election campaign, in which Laschet is going head-to-head with Social Democrat candidate Olaf Scholz and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens.

One local man fled Ahrweiler after a flood warning was issued at 2 a.m.

“I’ve never experienced a catastrophe where the river burst its banks in such a short space of time,” the 63-year-old man told SWR television.

In Belgium, around 10 houses collapsed in Pepinster after the river Vesdre flooded the eastern town and residents were evacuated from more than 1,000 homes.

The rain also caused severe disruption to public transport, with high-speed Thalys train services to Germany cancelled. Traffic on the river Meuse is also suspended as the major Belgian waterway threatened to breach its banks.

Downstream in the Netherlands, flooding rivers damaged many houses in the southern province of Limburg, where several care homes were evacuated.

In addition to the eight who died in the Euskirchen region, another seven people, including two firefighters, died elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia, several of them in flooded cellars.

In the town of Schuld, houses were reduced to piles of debris and broken beams. Roads were blocked by wreckage and fallen trees as flood waters receded on Thursday morning.

‘CATASTROPHE’

“It’s a catastrophe. There are dead, missing and many people still in danger. All of our emergency services are in action round the clock and risking their own lives,” said Malu Dreyer, premier of the Rhineland-Palatinate.

Further down the Rhine river, the heaviest rainfall ever measured over 24 hours caused flooding in cities including Cologne and Hagen, while in Leverkusen 400 people had to be evacuated from a hospital.

In Wuppertal, known for its overhead railway, locals said their cellars had been flooded and power cut off. “I can’t even guess at how much the damage will be,” said Karl-Heinz Sammann, owner of the Kitchen Club discotheque.

Weather experts said that rain in the region over the past 24 hours had been unprecedented, as a near-stationary low-pressure weather system also caused sustained local downpours to the west in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Rainwater draining into the Rhine, where shipping traffic was partly suspended, was expected to test flood defenses along the river, including in Cologne, on the lower Rhine, and Koblenz, where the Rhine and Moselle merge.

More heavy rain was due in southwestern Germany, on the upper reaches of the German Rhine, later on Thursday and Friday, the German Weather Service said.

(Additional reporting by Matthias Inverardi, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam and Phil Blenkinsop in Brussels; Writing by Emma Thomasson and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Raissa Kasolowsky and Alison Williams)

Russian-annexed Crimea declares state of emergency over floods

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Authorities in Russian annexed Crimea declared a local state of emergency on Thursday after heavy rain caused flooding in parts of the peninsula’s east including the city of Kerch.

The flooding affected nearly 300 homes and a city hospital, the emergencies ministry said.

Whole streets were submerged in water in parts of the city. In one place a fire engine could be seen driving through deep water towards a submerged passenger bus in a video posted online. Some cars were almost completely under water.

“In terms of material damage, the situation is severe. But now commissions have been set up, a regional emergency has already been declared,” Sergei Aksyonov, head of the Russian authorities, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv wants the peninsula back.

Aksyonov was shown on a boat in Kerch, surveying the flooding in video circulated by the RIA news agency.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Elena Ostrovskaya; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Barbara Lewis)